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James Daltons speech at the Launch of the FOIL Statement of Competence for Insurance Lawyers

Address by James Dalton at the Launch of the FOIL Statement of Competence for Insurance Lawyers 

James Dalton

[Check Against Delivery]


Good afternoon.  Thank you for the invitation to be with you today.


Following the momentous change delivered by the electorate last Friday, it’s
fair to say that we live in uncertain times. There is no point in pretending that the result in the Referendum was what many across the wider insurance sector wanted to see. But Britain’s insurance and long-term savings industry is well capitalised, has adapted to changing circumstances for centuries and will be here for the long-term to help and support our customers.

And it is those customers who we need to communicate with effectively. Now more than ever. In the context of significant upheaval in the markets and uncertainty about the future, they should not be making any hasty financial decisions based on the outcome of the Referendum whether that is in relation to their pension or worrying about whether their travel insurance is still valid.

At the ABI, our job now is to focus our energies on helping our members to navigate the turbulent economic, political and policy landscape ahead. And I imagine that is what many of you will be focussed on over the coming weeks and months - helping your clients – insurers – understand the implications for their businesses over the short, medium and long terms of the UK leaving the European Union.

Insurers want the UK to remain a competitive place to do business if our country is to thrive in a post-Brexit world. Competitive in terms of taxation, the broader regulatory environment and the ability to attract and retain skilled labour. There is no doubt that the process of delivering Brexit will be highly complicated, involve significant practical and legal uncertainties and difficult political judgments. And I know that many of you in this room have not been shy in offering your services to insurers as they begin to think through the ramifications of this decision for the UK!

The FOIL Standard

So, although I’m sure the FOIL Executive didn’t plan it this way, there is probably no better time to be launching the FOIL Statement of Competence for Insurance Solicitors. Insurers expect their solicitors to be specialists – to understand their industry at both the macro and micro levels and to apply that specialist knowledge when providing legal advice. And the FOIL Standard, along with the associated Statements of Legal Knowledge, will help insurance lawyers meet the standards of excellence that insurers expect.

The Standard highlights the complexities of insurance related legal work and complements the work of the SRA in improving outcomes across the legal services market. However it goes further than that - to drive the standards of insurance lawyers higher than the bar set by the regulator. But the real value-add of the FOIL Standard relates to the specific challenges faced by those working in the legal landscape of insurance, for example in relation to fraud.

The Standard highlights the issues associated with fraud; stresses the need to be alert to fraudulent behaviour; requires knowledge of specific fraudulent behaviours relevant to a particular area; and requires an awareness of the appropriate response if fraudulent activity is detected or suspected.

So my hope is that the FOIL Standard will give insurance lawyers greater confidence to advise their clients to take action when they suspect fraudulent activity. In doing so, they will help insurers deliver on an important recommendation of the Government’s Insurance Fraud Taskforce in terms of insurers robustly defending cases where there is a belief that a claim is fraudulent. I hope that all insurance lawyers abiding by the Standard understand the role they can, and do, play in the fight against fraud. And that they understand the fact that their actions on individual cases can make a real difference, helping to keep premiums for honest policyholders as low as possible and sending out a message that insurance fraud is not a victimless crime. Ultimately though, my hope is that insurers, working with their lawyers who are adhering to the FOIL Standard, can continue to take the fight to the cheats and scammers that plague our industry.

FOIL and the ABI

I think it’s fair to say that it has been a turbulent year for FOIL. But today’s launch of the FOIL Standard shows FOIL picking itself up, seeking to restore confidence and continuing to improve the already excellent services that FOIL members provide to their insurer clients.

FOIL has been; is; and will remain an important part of the wider trade association landscape across the insurance industry. The ABI and FOIL enjoy a good working relationship and that will become even more important over the coming weeks and months.

The ABI and FOIL will be continuing to work closely together in three key areas. Firstly, in seeking to deliver the Chancellor’s whiplash reform programme. Secondly, as we collectively seek some clarity on what Brexit is going to mean in practical terms. And thirdly as we deliver for our respective members, some of whom now overlap since the launch the ABI’s Associate Membership programme earlier this year.

I’ve said it before but it is worth repeating here this afternoon. In all the negative press about insurers, it is sometimes easy to forget the critical contribution our sector makes to supporting the UK economy and helping customers when they need us most. But as an industry we cannot be complacent. We need to continue to adapt and innovate. But also to improve the customer journey when people interact with our sector, whether from an underwriting or a claims perspective.

And just like insurers, insurers’ legal partners need to ensure that they are continuously improving the customer’s experience and reputation of our sector. Today’s launch of the FOIL Standard is an important contribution to achieving both. I hope FOIL members find working with the Standard both a useful and challenging experience and I congratulate Duncan, Lawrence, Shirley and the wider FOIL team for developing and launching it.

Thank you.

Last updated 03/08/2016